Tribute To A Website or When A ‘Mod’ Goes ‘Modding

Evolving a PC into an overclocked machine – Brian Berryman

** Author’s Note **

Sharp-eyed readers may note many “discrepancies” between the pictures contained within, and the system specifications at the end of this article. The pictures have been taken at many various points in time as this computer was built, and depict myriad combinations of components in its construction.

Perhaps one thing that’s changed as often as the weather here in New England, and the modifications to this computer case, are the components within it.

Cheers!

I’ve had the privilege of being a member of the Overclockers.com Forums since December, 2000. I stumbled across the website, and the Forums there, while searching for some info about building my first PC.

What I have learned here is tremendous. The friendships I have made are awesome. In a million years, I couldn’t repay what has been freely given me. The closest I can come is to pass along the knowledge given to me to those who follow, the way it was done for me. “Freely ye have received, freely give”.

But perhaps I can put together something a bit more “tangible” – something a bit more “visual”, if you will…=)

Here’s the “masterpiece” that the knowledge I’ve learned in the Forums at Overclockers.com has enabled me to build.

It all started out with the desire for a bigger case. I had a generic mid-tower ATX case, but it just didn’t have a lot of room to “grow” and wasn’t the best in the world, airflow-wise. The P/// I had running then didn’t throw that much heat, but the temps could have been a bit lower. Plus, I’d been reading about these “uber” chips, made by AMD, that were significantly faster and did throw a lot of heat.

I wanted to upgrade to one, and knew that I’d have to get a better case if and when I did. I did a lot of reading, and asking, and comparing, and more reading. Finally, a fellow member in the Forums sent me a URL to an e-tailer that had a full tower ATX case for only $47 with a power supply. The vendor had a couple of links to reviews of the case, and it looked really good, especially for the price.

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$ cha-ching $ Enter the 4Q Full Tower ATX Case (4Q Technologies, Model No. FS-787-ATX, http://www.4qtech.com/introductory/product/case/whale/whale.html ) Left stock, it’s not the best in the world for airflow, but with a bit of modification, a good amount of air will flow through. The thing that really sold me on the case though, was the removable motherboard tray, which slides out with the expansion cards in place.

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I did some basic modding at first, to improve airflow. I removed the clip-on bracket for the 80mm lower front intake fan, and cut the hole out to install a 120mm fan in its place. I also removed the “perforated” areas that partially blocked the twin 80mm exhaust fans at the top rear.

I also cut a hole for a 60mm exhaust fan beside the I/O ports on the motherboard tray. This got the P/// singing quite comfortably. I ran it that way for a while, until the “modding” bug set in.

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I’d seen quite a few pictures of people’s cases, all done up with windows, and neon lights, and all kinds of special paint, graphics, and more. I really wanted to do something with this 4Q tower, as it seemed like a perfect base for one of these custom machines.

I’m an auto technician by trade, and work for a Pontiac/GMC dealer near my home. There’s a body shop on site. I inquired as to painting the case and made tentative arrangements with one of the techs to have him paint it.

While working out the details of that, I was working out the design I wanted. Several rough sketches later, I had a good idea of what I wanted. The lower half of the left side panel was going to be cut out for a window, and I was going to try my hand at cutting out a custom graphic on the top half.

Right around then, the local Snap-On tool vendor came through and passed out calendars for the upcoming year (it was just before Christmas). If you’ve never seen one of these, it’s a really sharp calendar they give out every year, featuring a half dozen or so pictures of restored or hot-rodded cars for each month of the year.

I was still undecided on a color for my case until I got that. I leafed thru the calendar and was instantly attracted to one particular car. Not the car itself, but the color of it. It was a well restored 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T-S/E, in that funky green color Dodge offered that year – a really funky green!

Some digging through some old paint chip catalogs on the shelf at work located the color. Green and…black? That sounded good. Do the interior in the green, with some of the trim, and paint the exterior black.

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Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

While I put the money together to get the case painted, I finalized the design and did the cutting on the side panel. I had bought an air powered sheet metal nibbler at work for removing the perforated areas over the 80mm fans, and this worked great for cutting the window and the letters of my graphic.

I used my trusty old “whizzer” (usually used for cutting exhausts out of cars) with a 3″ cutting wheel for the “lightning bolt” part of the graphic. The air tools made short work of the cutting and left very little that needed to be touched up with a file or sandpaper. I planned on using some chrome automotive “door guard” edge trim around the window anyways, so the edge of that didn’t need to be totally flawless.

The manager of the recon department at work found me a few foot long chunk of this that was partially damaged. There were a few small cracks in the chrome where it had been coiled up to tightly, and he couldn’t use it on the cars.

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A trip to Home Depot secured the plexiglass sheet for the windows. Now it was time to paint.

I disassembled the computer and moved the contents wholesale into an empty mid-tower case I had available. I pulled off the faceplates of the drives and put them and all of the trim from the case into two boxes, marked “paint green” and “black”. These went to work with me the following Saturday, when they were transformed into the color scheme you see here. The chassis, inside of the exterior panels and some of the trim was done in green, and the exterior was done in black.

It took a whole lot of restraint to leave the freshly painted pieces alone for the paint to cure before assembling…

Sometime around when I got that calendar, I was also looking into lighting for the case. I inquired in the Forums here and was pointed in the direction of a fellow on e-BAY who sold cold cathode lighting kits at a very good price. I did some research on cold cathode lighting and determined this was the way to go.

While they are more expensive than neon, they are brighter and put out little to no heat. In an overclocked machine, reducing heat is always paramount. I ordered a twin cathode kit from this fellow, which ran off of a single switch and was wired to plug right into a standard Molex connector from the power supply. Mount it, plug it in and you’re done. One light for the top half, and one for the bottom.

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And they were green. Almost a perfect match for the paint. It was all coming together quite nicely.

The little green “alien surfer dude” came from a gumball vending machine. Our family has a Christmas tradition of someone getting a “gag” stocking every year that includes items like bottle caps, extremely limp, rubbery carrots/celery, pencil nubs, and other weird everyday items.

My wife and I were out shopping one day when we saw a row of these machines and thought a couple oddities like this would be perfect for the “stocking”. When the lil’ green dude dropped out of the machine, I felt he was a natural for the inside of the case.

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With the paint finally cured, I mounted the trim around the window and cut the plexi for the window and graphic. I used “super-glue” to attach the plexi to the side panel. I set that aside to dry for the night and assembled the actual “computer” back into the case. I only wish the pictures I have did it more justice…when I first fired it up and hit the light switch, the results were incredible.

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Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

But it was missing something… I soon added the text below the graphic, which finished off the detailing nicely. I rummaged around thru fonts in MS Word and found the ones used in the design of the Overclockers.com Forums logo. I’m dreadful at photo editing or graphics work, but managed to put together something resembling the O/C Forums logo text and printed it out on a sheet of magnetic stock. Some trimming with scissors and I was done. And I was very happy.

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Voila! Ze “masterpiece”, it is finis! NOT!

Remember I said I had a desire to upgrade to one of those AMD chips? Well, by this time I had done just that, courtesy of AMD no less. When AMD kicked off the launch of the Palomino (XP series), they sponsored a multi-city “Tour”, giving away samples of the new processor (with motherboard and heatsink) to lucky attendees in raffles at their “extreme Performance” Tour stops. The second stop on the tour was in Boston, and I went.

And I got lucky.

So, the 4Q now was housing an overclocked XP1800+ instead of a cooler running Pentium. Suddenly, that awesome airflow just wasn’t quite enough again. I lived with this for a while, making heavy use of an air conditioner in the computer room window. Installing a “dual fan” Antec power supply helped temperatures somewhat, but they were still higher than I would like them to be.

I also replaced the modded side panel with a full sheet of plexi, with a blowhole and 92mm fan mounted directly over the CPU. This looked nice, as it allowed full view into the case at all that paint, and hand rounded cables, and lights, and big copper heatsinks, and fans, fans, fans, and more fans.

My computer was now sounding less like a Hewlett-Packard, and more like a McDonnell Douglas.

{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

“A Mod Goes Modding, Part Deux”

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I’d thought about watercooling for quite a while and had discussed the hows and whys with several members in the Forums here. I’d sent off a number of messages to John “Hoot” Hill, asking countless questions. He’d built an extremely nice system and I planned on patterning mine after it. But I had not done anything about it, more out of finances than anything else. I just didn’t have the money to put into getting all the components together.

That’s when a good friend interceded.

He’d gotten a package deal on a bunch of used components and was selling what he either didn’t want or couldn’t use. He swung me a deal I couldn’t say no to on the core components of a water system. I now had the waterblock (DangerDen Maze 2), a chipset block for the Northbridge (also a DD piece, I believe), all the hose I would need, a half a bottle of “Water-Wetter”, a heater core out of I believe a Cadillac, already fitted with hose fittings, and a pair of 120mm fans.

I encountered a problem with the heater core, though. It was just too large to fit anywhere inside the case. I struggled with this for quite a while, while continuing to search for an alternative, and the remaining components.

Shortly thereafter, both the pump and a DangerDen Cooling cube were offered for sale in the Overclockers.com Classifieds. I had been looking for an Eheim 1250 water pump locally for a few months unsuccessfully when the one I got became available. I now had all of the pieces of the puzzle. The Eheim was found to be a perfect fit in the floppy/hard drive cage, if I relocated the drives up into the extra CD-ROM bays.

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When the DD Cube arrived, I took off the plexi side panel and set it into the bottom front of the case, where I had planned on mounting it. OH NO!! It’s too WIDE!! Mounted to the 120mm fan already installed put the tubes for the hoses against the motherboard, and outside the case, theoretically “through the window”. GAH! This stumped me for a while, while I rethought my whole plan and design of the H20 system.

The answer to this dilemma came to me from the most unlikely of places – a TV commercial! I was watching the telly with the wife one night, when a commercial came on and I heard that old cliché “Think outside the box”. Eureka! Mount the Cube externally! This would accomplish two things. One, allow me to use the Cube, and second, solve my dilemma of which direction to have the fans blowing.

Mounted in the lower front, I wasn’t sure if I wanted them blowing into the case, thereby heating the inside up somewhat, or blowing out, not only moving warm case air from inside thru the Cube, but forcing me to totally reconfigure the airflow going thru the case.

I did a lot of reading the next couple of days, while figuring out the best way to accomplish this. The thing that stood out in my mind the most was something that “Hoot” had mentioned when he built his rig. He talked about having all of the water components as close together horizontally, so the pump wouldn’t have to push as hard to move the water vertically.

I held the Cube against the outside of the right panel of the case and eyeballed it from the front. If mounted at one particular point on the side, all of the water components would be within the width of the inlet and outlet of the Cube itself. The fitting going into the Cube would be the lowest point in the system, and the line out was the highest. Perfect! All of the water would be contained in a very narrow horizontal plane.

But this meant a number of other things had to be modified to accomplish this. Running the hoses through the side panel would be easy enough, but when installed and running, it meant that the panel would be, for all intents and purposes, non-removable, unless I drained the system. Also, where I planned on routing the hoses to the Cube passed through a hole on the motherboard tray, rendering that non-removable, as well.

I decided to cut a corner of the tray off, where the hoses would pass through. This allows the motherboard tray to still be removed, if needed. All I have to do is remove the waterblocks from the front and it slides right out. I also cut a small corner of the chassis bracing off, to allow the hoses more room.

This allows me to have just enough “slack” in the hoses, that I can remove the side panel enough to get at the first set of drive mount screws on that side. I also cut out a small portion of the floppy drive cage, to clear the inlet fitting on the Eheim pump, so it could face directly towards the right side panel.

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I spent an afternoon going from automotive part store to store, searching for some rubber grommets to route the two hoses through, so they wouldn’t get cut on the edge of the holes in the side panel. I found something to cut the holes themselves, once I had the grommets. I had an old “spade” drill bit, used for boring holes in wood left over from installing a set of “Blue Dots” in the taillights of an ’86 Camaro I had years ago.

The size was right, but would the bit cut through the metal side panel? When I cut the window out, I saved the scrap panel. This allowed me to test the bit on the exact stock I wanted to cut, without damaging the side panel if it didn’t work. It did! I installed one of the grommets in the hole, and slid a length of tubing through it.

I got an almost airtight seal between the hose and grommet. When it came time to drill the holes for real, I found that the spade bit had been dulled enough to not cut through the panel. I had to make a trip to the hardware store where I bought two more of the same spade bits. It was still cheaper than buying a hole saw specifically for this purpose.

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{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

Mounting the DangerDen Cube to the side panel proved to be the most daunting task. I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about it. I had the two 120mm fans mounted to it already with “zip ties”, in a push/pull configuration, and thought about mounting the Cube to the panel with zip ties also. I thought that idea through and decided the likelihood of vibration eventually causing the edges of drilled mounting holes to cut through the zip ties was too great.

I didn’t want to come home from work one day to find the Cube had fallen, and either kinked the line blocking flow, or pulled a hose off of something, with disastrous consequences. The Cube itself is riveted together along four sides, with four rivets each. This resembles in a way that drives are mounted, which gave me an idea.

I dug out the box from my Maxtor hard drive (yeah…..I save everything..LOL Ask the wife, she’ll tell you!), and took a look that the drive bay adapters that came with it. The rails were just a bit wider than the Cube. I took the rails to work the next day, and cut them almost in half, lengthwise, and ground down the ends for clearance.

A number of holes were drilled in them, to facilitate mounting to the Cube. The original drive mount holes (pre-tapped for drive screws) served as the mounts for the Cube to the side panel. I used a scrap chunk of plexi to make a “template” for the mounting holes, and drilled into the side panel. Measure twice, cut once, as the saying goes. Lined right up, first try.

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Another trip to the parts store came next to get some smaller grommets for the wiring harness for the fans. I wanted the fans to both run on 12v, but having a 4 pin “Y” Molex adapter hanging under the Cube looked sloppy. I really wanted as little wiring visible as possible. I took the leads from the fans, combined them into one 4 pin plug (12v-ground-ground-12v), cut the “Y” adapter apart and re-arranged the leads to give me a short straight adapter with two 12v leads.

I just removed the 5v line entirely and kept both 12v lines, putting one on each side of the grounds (yellow-black-black-yellow). This small amount of wiring I was able to tuck in between the copper tubes of the Cube out of sight. I now had the side panel assembled, with the Cube mounted, and wiring harness ready to plug in.

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{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

During this time, I won a contest sponsored by www.exclusivePC.com and www.athlonXP.com . The prize was a Gigabyte GA-7VRX motherboard. The timing of this was beautiful, as this board has room for the chipset waterblock I had, where the motherboards I owned did not. I would be able to utilize that block after all. Plus, it upgraded me to a newer chipset (KT333) and USB 2.0.

The 1.1 version has some quirks but has been working fine for me. The temperature monitor built in is off by a country mile, but I’ve got the two probe “Compu-Nurse” installed, keeping tabs on things as well. When the board arrived, I modded that too..LOL. I mounted some heatsinks on the clock generators, and put a ThermalTake Blue Orb (also modded, by installing a “Golden Orb” fan in it) on the Southbridge chip.

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While the case was apart, I took this opportunity to heavily modify the front bezel. I decided to externally mount the 120mm intake fan, which required a cutout on the lower front of the bezel. This really cleaned up the appearance of the lower interior of the case. I routed the power cord for the Eheim inside the bezel, out the bottom, and through the front “foot”, so it exits the case underneath.

This required notching the bezel and “foot” for the cord. I also added front access USB ports on the lower right corner, as the Gigabyte board has the socket for the auxiliary ports close enough for the cable to reach. I removed the expansion slot plate from the cable and used it as a template to cut the holes for this. The cable has just enough room to fit next to the 120mm fan.

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{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

Now that I had all of the components together, final assembly began. I put all of the major components in place and spent a good deal of time agonizing over the wiring, trying to get it as neat and “invisible” as possible. I got it pretty well organized. Doing this not only makes the case look neater, but can substantially improve airflow as well.

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With everything assembled, it was time to put in the water. As I started pouring it in, I prayed that all the hoses were tight and no leaks would occur. None did. But the water didn’t go in, either. The way the hoses were routed was trapping pockets of air in the system, with the largest one being the pump itself. I spent several hours trying to get water into the pump in every manner possible to no avail.

I added water in the “Fill/bleed” tube and hoped it would burp overnight. It didn’t. I eventually had to lay the computer almost on its side, to get enough air out that I could start the pump, and bleed the system out fully.

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I ran the water system alone for two days to check for leaks before installing the expansion cards and firing up the computer itself. I went right into the BIOS, to check temps. I hadn’t done a fresh install of Windows before assembling all of this, and knew I’d go through a ton of “Hardware Detected” junk before getting to a desktop to check temps.

I had a minor coronary when I saw the temps in the BIOS – 59C……68C…..74….76…*slaps the power switch*

I knew the Gigabyte had a rep for inaccurate temp monitoring, but that’s way too high. Maybe it’s because the fans on the Cube run off of the PSU, and weren’t spinning until I fired it up.

Power on…post…BIOS…67C….73…74..*slaps switch again*

I logged on to the internet on a second computer and went to DangerDen’s website, and re-read the mounting procedure, and scrutinized the pictures there. Then I scrutinized the scene before me in the 4Q tower. It looked like the springs in the pictures were compressed a bit more than mine (I just didn’t want to crush that core…). I tightened the mounts a bit more, and somewhat timidly hit the power switch.

Power on…post…BIOS…33C…34C…..34C…..34C….*whew* It lives!!!

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{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

I have no real idea what my temps are to this day with this, but I do know that the Gigabyte reportedly reads inaccurately high. And the usual temps (full load) I’m seeing are in the mid 40′s Celsius. From what I’ve read, that should translate into mid 30′s, Celsius.

I do know that the XP1800+ wouldn’t budge past 1702 MHz at 1.85v, air cooled on the MSI K7T266 Pro board I got with it. Even voltmodded to 2.1v. Perhaps it’s the DDR333 I got for this Gigabyte board or the cooler temps of H20, or both, but I’ve now had this chip boot into Windows up to 1783 MHz, and run stable at 1759 MHz. Not bad for a chip I thought maxed at 1702. (I’m more inclined to say it was the ram holding me back)

I also know that the machine is a lot quieter now, even with three 120mm fans mounted externally.

And the “lil’ green alien surfer dude” now has water to surf.

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It’s come a long way from that plain beige tower case and I’ve had a lot of fun building it. But the knowledge to do so comes from Overclockers.com and the truly remarkable members of the Forums there. It is to these people I owe a huge debt of gratitude, for enabling and inspiring me to build this machine. It is to them this is dedicated.

Thank you all!

Brian Berryman, aka “Mr B”
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

“Learn to overclock @ overclockers.com”

This Computer Saves Lives! Folding @ Home for Team 32.
(Please see the “Folding” topic in the Overclockers.com Forums for more info.)

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Special thanks go out to:

  • Joe Citarella, Skip MacWilliam, and Ed Stroligo, for creating and maintaining this awesome website.
  • William Dickerson, for turning me on to that URL (and this case) so long ago.
  • Samuel Green, for a great many things, the least of which was turning me on to those waterblocks and assorted other components.
  • John “Hoot” Hill, for taking the time to answer question upon question on how to watercool.
  • John Whitefield and Anthony Weissenberger, for their guidance, support, and occasional “dope slap” when needed…=)
  • Lyman Gaines, for all the words of wisdom, on subjects of all description.
  • Jeremy, Jon, Paul, Chad, Patrick, Daman, and Jim…my “Comrades in Arms” here at O/C.
  • Daniel Edgar, for all you did to make these Forums great.
  • The entire Senior Member Staff, who help keep these Forums great.
  • The Membership-At-Large of Overclockers.com. Without you, the Forums would be but an empty place. Thanks for everything!

  • And of course, my wife Deborah, for putting up with me constantly tinkering, tweaking, posting, reading, typing, fragging, and modding. I Love you.

Thanks also go out to:

  • Joe”Beast”Wise, Webmaster, http://www.dreddnews.com, joe@dreddnews.com,
    For allowing me to use pictures from his review of the 4Q Tower case. http://www.dreddnews.com/reviews/hardware/4qcase/

  • Raymond at www.exclusivePC.com and Sterling at www.monarchcomputer.com, for the Gigabyte motherboard. Thanks again, guys!
  • AMD, for the XP1800+, and the MSI K7T266 Pro motherboard.
  • Andrew Lemont at Millennium Thermal Solutions, for allowing me to test one of his prototypes and use it in the early versions of this computer.
  • Erik Allen, at Ricky Smith Pontiac, for doing such an awesome job painting the 4Q case up!
    Mark Bendlock, at Auto Shine Inc., for the chrome trim. Thanks!

  • Karen and Jay Hendrix, for letting me borrow their digital camera for an extended amount of time, and being the great friends they truly are!
  • Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith, without whom I would never have had a chance at this. God bless.

System Specifications (current):

  • 4Q Full Tower ATX Case Model No. FS-787-ATX, modded as follows:
    • replaced 80mm front intake fan with 120mm, cut out front bezel to mount externally
    • cut hole next to I/O ports for 60mm exhaust fan
    • cut out perforated areas blocking airflow from twin 80mm rear exhaust fans
    • added window and graphics to left side panel
    • modded right side panel to mount DangerDen Cooling cube and route hoses through
    • cut motherboard tray to clear hoses
    • removed chassis brace to clear hoses
    • modded front bezel for Eheim power cord routing, external mounting of the 120mm intake fan, and added front access USB ports
    • painted case chassis, panels, and trim pieces from case and drives, 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T-S/E green, and gloss black
  • AMD Athlon XP1800+ @ 1748MHz (1.92v)
  • Gigabyte GA-7VRX (KT333) motherboard (modded with heatsinks on clock generators and modded “Blorb” on Southbridge, and GA-7VRXP USB 2.0 cable)
  • 256MB Kingmax PC2700 (DDR333)
  • Antec PP352X 350W PSU (Dual fan)

Case Fans:

  • 120mm front intake; Nidec TA-450DC
  • 60mm exhaust; YS Tech FD 1260257-B-2A
  • (2x) 80mm exhaust, Sunon KD1208PTB3
  • (on plexi full left side panel, when used) 92mm side blowhole
  • (exhaust); Sunon KD1209PTB2

Internal Components:

  • Maddog Multimedia GeForce 4 MX440 (modded with ThermalTake Chrome Orb, and 50mm fan mounted on back of GPU)
  • SoundBlaster Live! Value
  • 10/100 Ethernet card (NIC)
  • Maxtor 30GB ATA100 7200RPM hard drive
  • Hi-Val 52x CD-Rom
  • Hi-Val 24x10x40 CDRW
  • Generic Floppy drive
  • Twin LCD “Compu-Nurse”
  • 3 x 40mm intake fan “hard drive cooler”
  • All IDE cables rounded by hand, and all cables (incl. ATX power and case leads) wrapped in automotive split wire loom
  • Twin 12″ green cold cathode lights
  • ‘lil green alien surfer dude
  • Currently running Windows Millennium Edition

Watercooling System:

  • Eheim 1250 water pump
  • DangerDen Maze 2 waterblock
  • DangerDen (?) chipset waterblock
  • DangerDen Cooling Cube
  • ½” hose and fittings throughout
  • 2x 120mm Pabst 4312M fans, mounted on Cube in a “push/pull” configuration

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